Review | Miss Bennet, Christmas At Pemberley: a delight once again

The sisters in Miss Bennet, Christmas at Pemberly: Andrea San Miguel, Sun Mee Chomet, Christian Bardin, Roshni Desai. Photo by Dan Norman.

Oh, the trials and tribulations of the middle child! Less accomplished (theoretically) than the eldest, less adorable than the youngest, her voice is often ignored, if it’s heard at all.

But Mary Bennet, the enonymous hero of Miss Bennet, Christmas At Pemberley (at the Jungle Theater, through Dec 29), to her great credit, goes not gentle into the shadows of middle childhood. Hootfully played by Christian Bardin, Mary fiercely adheres to the things she loves – playing the pianoforte, reading the thick books in the mansion library. She is fiesty and independent and if you don’t fall in love with her, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

And then enter Mister Right: Arthur de Bourgh, in a beautiful turn by Reese Britts. Britts falls over the furniture, bangs his head on the mistletoe, screeches in terror when he sees the Christmas tree – “What is that!?” And Arthur is, we feel sure, perfect for Mary. There’s never any suspense about this, but one of the great pleasures of this delightful play is watching these two goofballs work out their powerful mutual attraction.

Miss B is beautifully directed, by Christina Baldwin. Her work with actors is perfect. She allows the cast to stretch and come into their own, all the while giving the production real narrative structure. The old adage applies: when the actors are enjoying themselves, so will the audience. Rehearsals of this play must have been great fun.

This is the second iteration of Miss Bennet, Christmas At Pemberley; the play, written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, was produced at the Jungle in 2017. The play is a riff on Jane Austen‘s beloved Pride And Prejudice. Many of the original actors are back – the exquisite Sun Mee Chomet, the sturdy James Rodríguez – and some are brand new – the aforementioned Britts, the screamingly funny Andrea San Miguel, the wonderfully pregnant Roshni Desai. If you have to see a Christmas play, this is the one. I would love for it to become a holiday tradition, like that play at the G.

As is always the case at the Jungle, the design is impeccable: sets by Sarah Bahr, lights by Marcus Dilliard, sound by Sean Healey, wigs by Robert Grier. These artists provide a lovely respite from the outside frigidity.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. John’s The Voice Of The Prairie has been performed 100 plus times and ditto Minnesota Moon and his adaptation of Sideways Stories From Wayside School. His The Summer Moon won a Kennedy Center Award For Drama. John has won fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation and from the National Endowment For The Arts. Please visit his informational website.




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